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The Price of Alcoholism

We are so used to seeing alcohol abuse around us that we have become immune to its appalling effects. While voices in the media, such as Peter Hitchens, argue that addiction is a fantasy entertained by the medical profession, the costs that the UK has to pay for alcoholism are real.

Liver specialist Nick Sheron, recently contributed to Alistair Campbell’s blog to warn the British about the risks of alcohol abuse:

Liver disease used to be rare in the UK”, wrote Sheron, “even as late as the 1980’s the UK had practically the lowest level of alcohol consumption in Europe, together with lowest liver death rates. For decades since the 1920’s cirrhosis was a disease of the rich because one needed to be relatively wealthy to consume enough strong alcohol to develop cirrhosis.”

Sheron points out that the cut price alcohol stocked by the major retailers are largely responsible for the unprecedented 500% surge in liver deaths in the UK over the past 40 years.

Sheron also mentions the public misconception on the matter. There has been active campaigning on the dangers of drunk driving and the authorities are tackling public disturbances caused by binge drinkers. The message that can be interpreted from this is that as long as you are a quiet drunk with no driver’s license, you are not a risk to society.

The idea of imposing a minimum price on alcohol has been around for years but was never given the go ahead. Minimum pricing would result in a reduced consumption of the cheapest available drinks such as lagers and ciders. Such taxation policies have been in place for a while in the Scandinavian countries and Canada, with the state of British Columbia experiencing a significant 32 per cent fall in liver death rates.

While some invoke the damage the minimum price on alcohol will bring to an industry that provides tax returns and jobs, others present the more hedonistic lament of Why should I pay because someone else can’t hold his liquor?”. The answer to the latter, rather rhetorical inquest is: “You already are!”